By: Magda Elkadi Saleh
I pray that I never forget the final years of my father’s life and the honor that Allah SWT bestowed upon me by allowing me to serve him. My father, rahmatullahi alayhi, was a strong man physically, emotionally and spiritually. He lived his life serving his family, his community, humanity, and, above all, Allah SWT. He was a deep thinker; he was an eloquent and forceful speaker; and he was a doer. The last years of his life, Allah SWT tested him with an illness that took away his ability to speak coherently and took away his ability to stand or walk on his own. He and my mother moved to Tampa, so that my sisters and I and our sons could assist her with his care. That is what we thought. I realized later that they had moved to Tampa so that we could honor them, as we are commanded so often to do in the Quran and Hadeeth, by serving them.
I pray that I never forget the first time I helped my father make wuduu, and the blessings that I felt, literally, flowing over me. I pushed him in his wheelchair up to the sink and helped him stand and then lean his arms on either side of the sink, so that he would not fall. I gently removed his watch, unlatching the back and pulling it forward off his left hand. I then gently removed his glasses, raising them carefully over his ears and then forward. I turned on the faucet and began to fill my hand with water to pour over his right hand. It was my first time, and I had not realized that the water was too cold; he let me know with a look and by pulling his hand back. I learned. I learned to warm the water first.
I allowed the water to warm and continued, first his right hand, then his left. As I continued, gently washing his face, then taking the water up, down and over each arm, I experienced something I had never experienced before. As I was assisting him with this ever-so-basic ritual that he had become unable to perform, I felt as if there was someone above me literally pouring a bowl of cool blessings over me. In that moment, I knew the true meaning of “honor your parents.” In that moment, I understood that Allah SWT was honoring me by allowing me to serve my father.
This act of service, and so many others, would be repeated many times over the next few years, and every time it was repeated, I felt an immense sense of love towards my father and a very deep and sincere gratitude towards Allah SWT.
As we age, our loved ones are also aging. As we age, many of our loved ones are faced with incapacitating illnesses. We should not fear serving them, nor should we feel that serving them is a burden. Allah SWT is honoring us by allowing us to serve them when they need this service the most. We should feel this honor, and we should make sure that our loved ones know that we feel honored to be serving them; serving them with love, with humility, with compassion, and with gratitude. Gratitude to them for everything they taught us and did for us over the years, and gratitude to Allah SWT for allowing us to earn their ridha.
Subhan’Allah, we never know when the last day for any one of our loved ones will come. We should not delay our service to them; we should not think that “there is time”. If there is, then that gives us that many more opportunities to earn their ridha and to earn Allah’s blessings. If there is not, then we have been given a wondrous opportunity that many others may not have been given; we should grab onto that opportunity, and we should be eternally grateful.
May Allah SWT grant our loved ones, those who are well and those who are not, those who are with us and those who have passed on, His greatest mercy, and may He honor us by allowing us to serve them, as they deserve to be served.